Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Great Adventure 2017 Part Ten

Our last day in Keswick was also cold and rainy, but we wanted to see an ancient stone circle ala Stonehenge called Castlerigg.  It wasn't far from town, so we got directions and headed out.  Of course it's in the middle of nowhere, unmarked, down a little mud road but we eventually arrived.  The information said that Castlerigg Stone Circle was built around 4500 years ago in the Neolithic period.  As with Stonehenge, no one really knows the reason it was put here. Castlerigg is about 97.5 feet in diameter and formerly consisted of 42 stones, 38 of which remain.  The stones vary in height from 3.5 feet to 7.5 feet.

The site is very picturesque and there are views for miles across the plains.  This also means that the wind whips through, as it was on the day we visited.  We took a quick walk around, a couple of photos, and ran back to the car.

We had the rest of the day, so visited the Derwent Pencil Museum, home of the world's first pencil.  This was an interesting little place and we learned some about graphite mining and pencil making.  The tickets to get in are pencils.

The most interesting story to me was one about secret map pencils used in World War II to get messages behind enemy lines.   Special pencils were hollowed out and tiny maps and compasses were inserted and then bomber pilots could get them to POW camps to facilitate escape.  It was fascinating.

From Keswick we headed to York.  We drove the car to Carlisle, which is a little town not too far from Lanercost, which is where we started the English portion of our trip.  This ended the circuitous route we had been on for the last week or so.  We got on the train in Carlisle and headed across some new territory to York.  Neither one of us could remember exactly why we decided to go to York, but once we were there we loved it.

The history lesson:  York is an historic walled city at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England.  York was founded by the Romans in 71 AD. In the Middle Ages, it grew as a major wool trading center and became the capital of the northern ecclesiastical province of The Church of England, a role it has retained.  The York Minster is the most prominent historic attraction. It is the cathedral of York and one of the largest of its kind in northern Europe.  The Minster is the seat of the Archbishop of York, the second highest office of the Church of England.  It's big, beautiful and very important in the church scheme of things.

We arrived on the train and walked to our guesthouse, which wasn't too far.  There are four gates that permit entry through the walls and one of them was between the train station and our destination.  We got our first glimpse of the river on our walk.

We took a walk on the wall to see some of the sights and then came down near the art museum and spent an hour or so in there.  They had an exhibit of Picasso's pottery which was interesting.

The other highlights were a visit to the National Railway Museum and the Minster.  The Railway Museum was really interesting.  It's large and has actual rail cars in there from antique ones to more modern.  Some private carriages are there, too, and you can see how royalty traveled in their own luxury train cars.

The Minster is huge and breathtaking.  We didn't take a guided tour but listened to some of the groups and wandered around on our own.  I found it impossible to get a good picture that showed the immense size and grandeur of this building.

Constantine the Great: proclaimed Roman Emperor in York in AD 306.  The age of things here is astounding.

Then we were off again by train (a very modern one) south to Oxford to prepare to drive again for a couple of days through the Cotswolds.

The Great Adventure 2017 Part Nine

This is getting ridiculous; we've been back for two months and my journal is only half finished.  Since I'm doing this mostly so I can have a record of where we went and what we did, I'm going to complete it.  There will probably be fewer words and more photos as I go along, but at least it will be done.  As always, click on the photo to make it larger.

I left us at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham.  We still had a car for this portion of the journey so we left there and headed for the lake district and Keswick (pronounced Kezick).  This was a day of rainbows, as we left Barnard Castle in a light rain shower.

The roads weren't too busy, which was always a plus for us since when we drove we were both on high alert all the time.  No knitting in the car for me!

Our first stop was at High Force waterfall, a place Pat had researched at home and we had decided to see.  On its descent to the North Sea, the River Tees encounters a large outcrop of volcanic rock which runs across northern England from east to west.  Much of Hadrian's Wall was built along the top of this natural rock formation.  As the river traverses this rock formation (called Whin Sill), it drops by about 22 meters (71 feet) as one of England's most spectacular waterfalls, High Force.  On a cold, windy, and rainy day it was indeed breathtaking.

At this time of year and in the rain, there aren't really any people around.  You park in a lot and walk down a forested trail to the magnificent waterfall.  I liked the signs warning to stay out of the water.  I can't imagine any circumstance that would make swimming or wading here seem like a good idea!

Another couple happened by so we exchanged phones and photos, and headed back up the path to the car.  The rest of the drive was dark and windy but luckily there still wasn't much traffic to bother us.

Keswick turned out to be a pleasant little town on the shores of Derwentwater, a fairly large, mostly unpopulated lake.  The photos we saw before the trip showed us beautiful weather and lovely lake and mountain views, but we pretty much got cold and rainy.  The town was nice, the people were very nice, but it was crowded with lots of cars and traffic and dogs! everywhere.  Even in the fall when we thought tourist season would be winding down, the streets were full.  We found out that it was voted one of the most dog friendly towns in England, and people would walk the streets with multiple dogs and they were also welcome at most restaurants.  This was a problem for us, since Pat (post transplant) isn't supposed to be around animals.  Also, when it's raining, your dinner tends to smell like wet dog when there are several at neighboring tables.

Be that as it may, we came to this area for a hike and we got to do that.  Cat Bells is a fell (a high and barren landscape feature such as a mountain range) in the Lake District of England.  It rises to a height of 1480 feet and is a popular hike.  Pat had also researched this and picked it out as something we should try.  We asked our host at the B&B and he told us how to walk to the lake and which boat to catch.  You have to ride in an old wooden boat to get across to the beginning of the hike (or you can drive but the boat is a lot more scenic and fun.)

We intended to get on the boat that goes counterclockwise around the lake so as to get to the hiking point at the first stop.  Of course, we got lost walking to the dock and missed that one.  Our plan B was to go on the other boat and get off where we would have ended the hike and do it backwards.  I vetoed that plan because I figured we'd get lost again.  So we rode the boat almost all the way around the lake (takes only 20-30 minutes) and got off.  It was a good thing, since after the first little while, the trail wasn't marked and we just followed the other people up the hill.  It was muddy and cool and we had pretty good rain pants but not waterproof shoes.  Yes, I had lots of layers stuffed under my raincoat trying to stay warm.  Not the most flattering look!  The hand knit hats and mittens were handy.

When we approached the summit, the wind picked up and the rain started and it really was miserable.  We still didn't know where to find the trail back down and the other people around us didn't, either.  We made the decision to go back the way we came and I'm glad we did.  It was a fun hike with beautiful views.

We went back down and caught the boat for the last bit of the lake traverse.  We stopped for fish and chips (and more dogs) and called it a day.

That night we walked back to the lake to attend a play at the community theatre, Theatre by the Lake.  We saw a very good play entitled "Handbagged" and was subtitled "When Maggie Met the Queen."  It detailed the meetings between Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth over the years and acquainted us with some British (and world) history that we hadn't known or thought about for years. Each woman's ubiquitous handbag carried at the elbow was the inspiration for the title.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Great Adventure 2017 Part Eight

We left Bamburgh Castle and headed for our next destination, a town called Barnard Castle in the County of Durham.  This drive took us again through Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, which would be the second time we were in this vicinity.  (Further proof of our circuitous route of travel.)  The drive was pretty easy as drives in Britain go and we approached our destination in the late afternoon.  We saw signs for Raby Castle, which was a place we intended to visit during our stay in this area.  Since we were going right by and it was still open, we stopped.  It was another very enjoyable visit. We were just in time as it closes for the winter in October.

Raby Castle is another privately owned place and was built in the 12th century by the Nevills.  They owned it until the 1600s when ownership reverted to the crown.  In 1626, the castle was purchased by the Vanes.  The family still maintains ownership of the castle.  It sits on a large piece of land, including a 200 acre deer park, and deer can be seen grazing on the grounds.  Many rooms in the castle have been opened to the public and are furnished beautifully.

The great kitchen was built in 1360 and in daily use until 1954.  It is immense.

This looks just like your dining room, right?

This room was where the servants ate and reminded me of the downstairs dining room on "Downton Abbey."

Imagine having an entry hall big enough to drive a carriage into.

Other rooms:

After admiring the castle and having a cup of tea and a scone in the tearoom, we drove on to our next B&B.  This was a charming town again, and again had ruins of another castle.  You can't seem to go anywhere in the UK without running into a castle!

Our room, again, was cozy but nice and the location was great.

We spent a lot of the next day touring the Bowes Art Museum, which we enjoyed immensely.The Bowes Museum was built as a public art gallery for John Bowes and his wife Josephine, Countess of Montalbo, who both died before it opened in 1892.  

They spent a lifetime collecting art for the museum and much, of course, has been added since.  A highlight is the Silver Swan, a mechanical piece built in the 18th century.  It does its moving "show" just once a day now so as to preserve the mechanics.  It is gorgeous.

There is art of every kind in here and so much history that it's impossible to take it all in.  Ceramics, stained glass, furniture, paintings, sculpture, textiles and clothing, toys, and on and on.  This little town is exceedingly fortunate to have such a resource nearby.  

And the food in the cafe was excellent!